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Toronto talks climate reform, walks austerity

Valerie Lannon

December 19, 2017

Immediate action is needed to make sure the City of Toronto implements its climate action plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GGE). 

What is Transform TO?

The plan, called Transform TO, was passed by city council in July 2017, and aims to reduce GGE by 30 per cent by 2020, 65 per cent by 2030 and 80 per cent by 2050. Like similar plans such as the Toronto and York Region Labour Council’s “Greenhouse for Greater Toronto”, Transform TO looks to reduce GGE through extensive building retrofits and near zero GGE emissions on new building, more mass transit, increased use of sustainable energy sources and diverting waste from landfills.

The plan also includes guiding principles like social equity, affordability, poverty reduction, local jobs, public health and resilient communities.

While the 80 per cent reduction in GGE by 2050 is much too late to prevent climate catastrophee, the main themes of Transform TO are worth supporting.

But do Mayor and Council actually care?

We all know how the Liberals like to talk a good line, thinking people will be fooled when the government doesn’t actually deliver and instead carries through massive austerity measures. Toronto city politicians are doing the same thing with Transform TO.  While they unanimously approved the plan earlier this year, now they refuse to fund its implementation. 

In its November 2017 deliberations on the city’s estimated 2018 budget of nearly $11 billion, Council allocated virtually no funds for the climate action plan! City staff recommended that $6.7 million would be required in 2018 to get this plan off the ground.

In a page from the senior governments’ handbooks, Council appears thrilled to be delivering a so-called “balanced” budget, saying that there is $9 million leftover. The trouble is, about $40 million is needed to fund not only Transform TO but other critical initiatives such as the Fair Fare Pass for low-income transit riders, two-hour transfers for the transit system, “Tenants First” – improvements to Toronto Community Housing, and the very important Poverty Reduction Strategy. Toronto also has the highest fees in the country for child care. But rather than help low and middle-income people, the city wants a “balanced” budget that still manages to find funds for a one-stop subway in Scarborough and rebuilding the Gardiner expressway.

And this is the same Council that refuses to open additional, much-needed shelter beds as winter begins in earnest.

Community fighting back

Groups like the Toronto Environmental Alliance and the Toronto Climate Action Network have been monitoring Transform TO since its inception. They are calling for everyone to put pressure on the Mayor and Council to fully fund Transform TO.

These groups are also clear that Council will not get away with trying to pit environmental activists against anti-poverty advocates to fight for crumbs from the budget.

Meanwhile the Canadian Union of Postal Workers is urging its members to demand Council open 1,000 additional shelter beds needed for this winter. Other unions and organizations should follow this lead.

We must stay united and link the struggles for climate action with social and economic justice.

Sign the Toronto Environmental Alliance petition here


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